The boy who cried fascism


By labelling every mainstream conservative extremist, bigoted, sexist, racist, homophobic, and probably a fascist, the left has devalued these descriptions to such an extent that it’s completely unprepared to face genuinely worrying political phenomena.

Also, as a result of misuse and overuse of such labels, the general public has been thoroughly desensitised to them, while those labelled either ignore them altogether or even often wear them as a badge of pride, an indication they must be doing something right to get such a rise from their opponents.

The Trump phenomenon is arguably the best case in point. Donald Trump is pretty much the left’s caricature of a right-winger. He represents every trait and espouses every opinion, usually in an outlandish and over-the-top way, that everyone from the Soviet propagandists to Western progressive commentators has always imagined in a conservative.

But when you demonise every right-wing politician, including essentially decent men like Ronald Reagan and Mitt Romney, what do you do when faced with Trump? “Sorry guys, remember Bushitler? Well, now forget all about it; this time it’s for real, and we really really mean it”.

Just as oversupply of money leads to inflation and money losing its value, so does oversupply of invective leads to words losing their power. Particularly when you apply the same term to a wide range of opinions and actions you disapprove of. When everything is fascism, nothing is fascism, including the actual objective fascism.

This verbal profligacy and inflation goes hand in hand with the left’s inability to see for what they are the authoritarian and otherwise unsavoury tendencies on its own side. “1984” was meant to be a cautionary tale, but for too many it seems more like a “how to” manual, with the widespread adaptation – needless to say under different names – of such concepts as Newspeak and thought crime. Reshaping language to suit political agendas, as well as attempts to exorcise and excise or even criminalise whole areas of private conversation and public debate would make Orwell cringe were he alive today. Similarly, in an attempt to protect “the Other” from any criticism, the left is finding itself unwilling and unable to see and criticise it for the same sins it castigates its own culture and society.

Thus, concepts like racism become largely meaningless when the left recognises it not only as a view and an attitude that is unique to the right, but also one which describes and characterises just about every view and attitude espoused by the right.

Meanwhile, 17 percent of Americans think that democracy is a very bad or fairly bad way to run a country, compared to only 9 per cent in the mid-1990s. More worryingly, a quarter of those 16 to 24 years old agree with this sentiment. A third of Americans believe it would be better to have a “strong leader” who does not have to “bother with parliament and elections”.

These are the sorts of popular sentiments that are the emotional bedrock of authoritarianism – both of the right and the left (in practice, of course, there are more similarities than differences between the far left and the far right; the internationalist socialism and nationalist socialism). But let’s talk instead about how opposing transgender bathrooms or same-sex marriage is violent homophobia and the precursor to the Republicans killing gays.

The wolves are real and out there, in the shadows – for now. But the boy’s not serious.

(Apologies for the sexism of the original tale which gave life to this post title – in reality, girls as much as boys have been crying fascism.)